The Best Things to See on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is considered the jewel of the western coast, partly because the region has a taste of everything: glaciers, mountains, charming towns, and opportunities for outdoor activities. Many Icelanders refer to the area as “Iceland in miniature.”
After the south, Snæfellsnes is probably the most popular region of Iceland to visit. Its proximity to Reykjavík and numerous attractions make Snæfellsnes a year-round destination with something for everyone. Scattered around the peninsula, you’ll find tiny fishing villages, many hiking routes, and quirky museums. Gray Line offers a day tour to Snæfellsnes that includes several of the attractions listed below.
Where is Snæfellsnes located?
The Snæfessness Peninsula spans about 56 miles long and is located in West Iceland. The western edge of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is home to Snæfellsjökull National Park and small towns like Hellissandur, Ólafsvík, and Grundarfjörður. The Snæfellsjökull glacier, which lies on top of a volcano in the center of the national park, is the main event for many.
Top 11 Things to Do in Snæfellsnes
Snæfellsnes is a popular region for sightseeing, hiking, and outdoor activities. You can book tours to walk on the glacier and explore some actual ice in Iceland, and it’s an impossibly beautiful and diverse region of the island. Below are some of the top sights to explore in Snæfellsnes.
Explore Snæfellsjökull National Park
The mighty Snæfellsjökull glacier lies on top of a volcano, situated in the center of the national park. The glacier’s peak is 4,774 ft. tall, seen from Reykjavík on a clear day. The volcano is considered active, though the last eruption occurred 1,900 years ago. It takes center stage in the 1864 literary classic Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, which chooses the summit of Snæfellsjökull as the setting of a fictional passage to the center of the earth. There is plenty to explore inside the park, like beaches, cliffs, and glacier views. Travelers can explore the area around the glacier but should not venture onto it without a guide as it can be dangerous.
Visit the cliffs of Arnarstapi
The seaside cliffs in the small fishermen’s town of Arnarstapi, at the gateway to Snæfellsjökull National Park, are spectacular, with basalt formations including holes and arches carved out by surf. The cliffs are a nesting ground for the arctic tern, and you’ll love taking photos with a giant stone statue of Bárður Snæfellsás with its back to the ocean. Easy paths weave through the cliffside area, making it a lovely place to spend some time.
Roam the black sands of Djúpalónssandur
Reynisfjara black sand beach gets a lot of hype in the south of Iceland, but don’t discount Djúpalónssandur Beach. Located on the southwestern edge of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, it’s one of the region’s highlights. The vast beach is covered by tiny black stones shaped by the force of the tides and whipping of the wind. Visitors love to wander among the lava landscapes and the interesting rock formations.
Marvel at the iconic Kirkjufell mountain
Kirkjufell, which means “Church Mountain,” is a favorite subject for photographers due to its unique shape: sharpened at the top and long sloping sides. The mountain formed over millions of years, gaining its shape from glacial erosion and peaking at 1,519 ft. It also draws Game of Thrones fans, as the mountain appeared on the show as Arrow Head Mountain.
Go whale-watching in Grundarfjörður
Centrally located on the northern coast of Snæfellsnes, Grundarfjörður is in a spectacular mountain range that includes Kirkjufell, which has a steep and treacherous-looking peak. Those interested in spotting orcas have a great shot in Grundarfjörður, as the majestic whales are known to feast on herring off the town’s shores. The town has a few interesting museums and a lot of hiking opportunities.
Enter Vatnshellir lava cave
Scientists believe the 656-foot-long Vatnshellir cave was created in an eruption 6,000-8,000 years ago. Today, it’s a fascinating attraction for travelers from around the world. The cave has two main sections: the upper section, which showcases unique lava formations that are curved on the sides of the lava tube, and the lower part, which can be reached by a long and narrow but well-maintained staircase, and takes tourists about 115 ft underground to a place hidden from the outside world for thousands of years.
Spot seals near Ytri-Tunga farm
Shortly after entering Snæfellsnes peninsula, by Ytri-Tunga Farm, you can spot local wildlife at the beach, home to a seal colony and various sea birds. Several seal species visit the shores of Iceland, and it’s delightful to get a glimpse of these majestic marine mammals. The best chance to see seals is in the summer months.
Experience scenic Stykkishólmur
Stykkishólmur is a quiet seaside town that hit it big when Ben Stiller decided to shoot crucial scenes of his 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Since the movie’s release, tourists have been flocking to the otherwise quiet town in droves. It’s full of West Coast charm, with brightly colored houses and quaint guesthouses at the base of a mountain range.
Sail to the island of Flatey
Flatey (Flat Island) is the largest of the western islands in Breiðafjörður, a bay that separates the Westfjords from the southern part of the country. Take a ferry from Stykkishólmur to the small island, which is north of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and about 0.6 miles wide and two 1.2 miles long. It is an ideal visit for those seeking a spot in Iceland that is as old-world as it gets—as in, not much has changed on this island in centuries. The colorful wooden houses and single road evoke a simpler time that has not been overcrowded with industry.
Traverse the Berserkjahraun lava fields
Between Stykkishólmur and Grundarfjörður lies Berserkjahraun, a 4000-year-old lava field that plays a significant role in the Icelandic Saga, Eyrbyggja. According to Viking legends, two Swedish “Berserks” forged Iceland’s first road to the peninsula’s south side through the Vatnaleið pass. Geologically, the lava field was created after four scoria craters erupted in short intervals around 4000 years ago. The lava surged from the mountain slopes of Bjarnarhafnarfjall and out to the sea at Hraunsfjörður and Hraunsvík.
Learn about shark fishing at Bjarnarhöfn
The Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum is one of those interesting museums you won’t see anywhere but Iceland. The museum is located on a family farm that has been shark fishing and processing shark meat for generations. The owners provide a guided tour of the museum, where you will see fishing boats and equipment used in shark fishing. Guests are then taken to the drying house, where you can see the process of preserving shark meat. You can even taste it if you dare.
Is it worth visiting the Snæfellsnes peninsula?
The Snæfellsnes Penisula is a popular destination in Iceland and worthwhile to visit. There are hiking opportunities, numerous attractions, and outdoor activities to enjoy in the region.
How much time do you need at Snæfellsnes peninsula?
Gray Line offers a day tour to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula that lasts for 11 hours; the region is perfect for a day trip, or you can plan to spend more time there.